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on July 12, 1999
Although Jewell Parker Rhodes considers herself a feminist, she has taken the story of one of the most powerful women in American history and turned her into a frightened, insecure child. The Marie Laveau of "Voodoo Dreams" is a weak woman, incapable of standing on her own two feet and is constantly relying on other men to help her. Rhodes chooses to have her Marie seduced and imprisoned by Papa John (although there are no hard facts indicating a relationship between the two contemporaries). As the plot unfolds, her Marie is either constantly wishing to return to the lap of her grandmother or fantasizing about the bed of Papa John, despite his constant abuse and rape. Marie is portrayed as a puppet, forced to perform before a screaming crowd, as Papa John counts the money on the sidelines. Readers who are familiar with the legend of Marie Laveau will no doubt be disturbed by this Marie's cries of "I am only a woman . . . I am not in control." The difference between Rhodes' Marie, and the Marie of Robert Tallant's "Voodoo Queen" is stunning. Although Tallant writes in drier prose, his Marie is a vibrant, powerful, charismatic and inventive woman. Whereas Rhodes' Marie is a sheltered and emotional, crippled by the intensity of her spiritual experiences. If I had read "Voodoo Dreams" first, perhaps I would have been seduced by Rhodes' admittedly beautiful prose. But I read Robert Tallant's "Voodoo Queen" first, and I absolutely cannot stomach the hideous distortion of a great woman into this sniveling little girl. I do NOT recommend this book for those who admire Marie Laveau or enjoy a strong female character. It is well and poetically written . . . but demeaning to the legend of the great voodoo queen, and to the sophistication of the religion that birthed her.
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on March 4, 2004
Just in time for the Halloween "holiday" celebrated by real and replica ghosts, witches, and goblins, an old story of New Orlean's most renowned Voodooienne, Marie Laveau is a perfect read. Rhodes takes great detail to write a historical sketch on the lives of three generations of Voodoo Queens; Grandmere`, Maman, and finally Marie. All three women are named Marie, but the most revered of them is the last one born. The money hungry and foul tempered John and Marie's sweetheart of a husband, Jacque, serve as love interests to add an interesting twist to the storyline once Marie answers the call of Damballah, the ultimate god in the African spirit world who would only possess the body of a voodoo priestess. Characters like Ziti, Nattie, Bridgette, Louis and Ribauld add spice to the mix of the story line as the reader delves into Marie's life story from childhood to the end of her long "career" as a spiritual healer/vessel for African spirits.

Though the book may appear daunting in length, once I opened up the book, Rhodes weaved a spell on me from start to finish by making me wonder where the history ended and where the fiction began in this book. There are so many mysteries surrounding Marie Laveau's life that I was pleased to have a few questions answered and simultaneously be schooled on some of the history of the religion brought over from the African American homeland. Was/is voodoo just a way for blacks to make money by praying on the hopes of those who believed in voodoo's "dark powers" during a time period when job opportunities were scarce for freed blacks in the late 19th century? Exactly how long did Marie live? These were just a few of the questions that I wanted answered when I picked up this book ... and in the true nature of this mysterious religion, I was given just enough information to whet my appetite as I flipped from page to page looking for more answers.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is as enthralled as I am with the history of the city full of spirits, mysteries, and an American history that could rival the Egyptian hieroglyphics in its complexity. Looking for more than just a good book to read at the beach? Pick this one up. Faint of heart or a scaredy cat of this highly notorious religion? Read the book anyway. You just might be surprised at how much fear can be dispelled by learning what the "unknown" is all about.

R.E.A.L. Reviewers
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on July 7, 2003
It's hard for me to think of a book that I so badly wanted to end in my history of reading. This story, although captivating at first, turns into a cesspool melodramatic monologues and arguments. I sympathized with Marie in the beginning of the book, when she was a naive little girl who couldn't help but be drawn to voodoo through curiosity and instinct. As the book progressed, Marie's personality went through so many ups and downs inconsistent with her character that I began to not care at all what happened to her--the story progression and character development was just plain sloppy and tiresome to read. In addition, the eroticism that Rhodes so freely expounds on added color and dimension to the story at first, but when Marie starts desiring virutally every male character in the book, I couldn't help but wonder if there was any rhyme or reason to her sensuality, or if it was there just for entertainment's sake.
This book did however spark in me an interest in the history of voodoo in Haiti and New Orleans, but I think I would prefer to read something a little less fictional and sensationlized next time.
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on March 6, 2003
VOODOO DREAMS is not the type of book that I generally read for entertainment, however, it was what I was carrying around at the time until my next novel, so I read it, and had the nerve to enjoy it. A novel of Marie Laveau, from childhood to adulthood, the next voodoo queen for her people, Marie was raised in the bayou of Louisana, purposely by her grandmother, to live as best as she can, despite the isolation of living in the woods. During this time, she has visions of a man who will acknowledge her abilities and use them for his own gain. Despite her grandmother's attempts to keep her ignorant of her powers and her past, especially of her mother, Marie rebels until she leaves the haven she has known for a world that exist during the time of the slave ships and the free black men who must have papers to prove it. Marie is automatically drawn into a quickie marriage to provide her stability, while being drawn to a man who will destroy her mentally, emotionally, and physically in order to obtain his desires of dominance over the blacks who believe in voodoo. During this traumatic time, Marie's powers will prove to be more than just a lark. They will show her how to survive, and who to trust. They will also act as tools of revenge toward those who have already engineered her destruction. She will also realize that just because she has the gift, doesn't mean she's the only one. A novel with a right mixture of love, betrayal, friendship, lust, and voodoo, only the sturdiest of readers will attempt to take this book on, and also like it.
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on June 1, 2000
Kudos to Jewell Parker Rhodes for an extraordinary piece of fiction based, in part, on fact. While some might argue that the picture Ms. Rhodes paints of the three Marie Laveaus is not entirely born out by the historical evidence, let's set the record straight. Take a close look at the title on the cover ... Ms. Rhodes clearly acknowledges that this amazing book is a NOVEL and never claims herself to be the definitive biographer of the REAL Marie Laveau or any of Marie's decendents.
That said, there are several reasons why I believe this book deserves 5 stars. First, the vivid imagery used so eloquently by Ms. Rhodes harkens back to the days of old when ALL history was oral history and story-telling was an art. What she has given us is a passionate tale of female courage in the face of injustice, triumph, tragedy, adventure, mystery and faith -- all packaged in a format that is superbly written and masterfully structured.
In my opinion, with VOODOO DREAMS, Jewell Parker Rhodes shines where most of the current best-selling authors fail. She leaves you begging for more, NOT wishing you'd spent your money at Starbucks.
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on September 3, 2001
This is an amazing and superbly written book. I stayed up most of the night to finish reading it; I literally could not put it down. It's not often that I can describe a book at filled with gritty realism AND hauntingly beautiful writing, but that is my best summary of this fictionalized biography of Marie Laveau. However, while I appreciate what the author accomplished in explaining the troubling aspects of the Marie Laveau legends, this book was not a fun read for me. Then again, when I watch TV or go to the movies, I choose comedies, so I want to stress that this is purely a matter of taste. This book is a fabulous page-turner, and I am grateful for the deep historical research and insights this book provides. If you prefer realism to fantasy, or savor rich and vivid writing above all, you'll like this book.
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on August 18, 2001
I wish that had been included in the title...I would have been much less disappointed when I got all the way through this book thinking this was based on real events until I got to the author's afterward where she basically said "Oh well I really just took my grandmother and made her Marie Laveau". Now, I'll admit, I don't know a whole lot about Laveau so I was willing to believe the storyline. But finding out that none of it NONE of it was based on what was known about Laveau left a pall on this book in my mind. Three stars because I enjoyed it before I was disillusioned.
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on November 20, 2001
This is wonderfully written novel. Rhodes did a terrific job of dramatizing the legacy of this remarkable woman. Her characters come to life with each page the reader turns.
Whether or not one believes in or practices Voodoo, this book is an insightful and entertaining read. It discusses the beliefs and origin of the Voudon, and provides a glimpse into a world that many try to ignore.
A captivating read and a lyrical novel, I was engrossed in the story of Marie and her legacy. As the title suggests, I found myself having dreams about Marie Laveau.
Candace K
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on January 26, 2000
This book was an insult to Marie Laveau and all that she managed to achieve with her life. What we DO know historically about Marie was that she was an intelligent women who succeeded when literally everything was stacked against her. This author reduces her to a steotype of 'woman as inevitable victim of men in life' for some contemporary whim despite all historic evidence to the contrary. Any free New Orleans visitors guide has more accurate information about the Marie Laveau.
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on May 31, 2000
I read this book many years ago and it is still alive in me.I disagree with other reviewers who criticize the fact that the book is not the "true" Marie Laveau. The subtitle itself says it is a NOVEL about M.Laveau (not a biography). It is its own novelistic, spell-weaving, story-telling atmospheric quality that offers the book's gifts, not its historiograpic accuracy. Ms.Parker Rhodes displays a high craft of language and narrative that still haunts me.
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